Prize flowers among the shingle


Stand, if you can, on the shore at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve at the height of a winter storm, the wind turned up to ’11’, with sea and salt lashing your face, and it won’t feel like a place fit for plants to flourish.

Yet, against the odds, this harsh shingle strand-line supports some of our most stunning wild flowers and on a calm June day this is one of the best places that an RX-land-lubber-nature-lover could choose to linger.

Yellow Horned-poppy

Yellow Horned-poppy shows off stunningly shiny flowers and long sickle-shaped seed pods. Sea Kale has fleshy ‘sea-cabbage’ leaves and white flowers that drip with a sweet honey scent that hangs over the beach. Later in the year the dried-up plants will break loose from the shingle, become tumbleweed, and seek new footholds on the nature reserve – or maybe they’ll be swept to sea, then carried by longshore drift down the coast, heading for Kent. You’re welcome.

Sea pea

Hard-by the high water mark you can find one of the nature reserve’s treasures – the low-lying cerise flowers of the very rare Sea Pea, like a crawling, cowering sweet pea, reaching out for the brine. Further away from the sea the dramatic purple towers of Viper’s Bugloss look on.

Viper’s Bugloss

Many of the plants that grow by the sea are halophytes – meaning that they are able to survive in salty sea-dog conditions. It’s not that they particularly like this environment, but that their competitors like it less.

Quality shingle habitats are exceptionally rare and vulnerable to trampling, so please keep your distance and enjoy the flowers from the footpath and boardwalks. These plants need the sea to thrive, but with the threat of a rising sea-level, we have to hope that they will not ultimately be consumed by it.

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust and supported by the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. If you’re able to help, you might wish to join one or the other, or maybe even both.

www.rye harbour

The Friends’ book Seaside Flowers of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve with text by Morgan Greenhalf and photos by Dr Barry Yates is available from the Discovery Centre, Rye Books, Adams of Rye and Ethel Loves Me.

Image Credits: Barry Yates , David Bentley .

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  1. I’ve recently been unwell with Shingles (no pun) and very much look forward to walking again along the RHNR paths to see these beauties. What a local joy and privilege.


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